Part 45

Grev was being followed. It hadn't been too hard to notice, the lizard had been lurching after him for most of the morning, eyes darting about like it was looking for something else. However much it acted though, Grev knew that it was here for him. It knew somehow.

But it wasn't attacking.

Grev didn't know why it was doing what it was doing, but he kept an eye on it as he continued working. Most of the oil had been delivered within an hour, so now he and the other elves in his group were helping barricading the east gate shut and dumping wooden calthrops over the walls that were lost in the grass outside. Those would be nasty, Grev could tell. When Arthell had told him what to do, Grev had noticed that the dog-folk were simply that- dogs in the shape of normal folk. Beyond that, there was no connection between the two. The dogs didn't wear clothes or even shoes.

Those calthrops would draw plenty of blood before the end. Hopefully, not just from the dogs. In all the rush, no one looked twice when he placed a bucket or two of the nasty little things next to some of the water barrels. If things went well, Grev hoped that he'd be able to use those during the fight and try to turn the tables on the elves.

But what to do about the lizard?

X

"Blood-pacts?"

Magnus had known Bale for his entire life and felt he could read the big half-dragon's face almost as well as a human's. Bale was flustered and obviously reeling from the question. That let Magnus know that his guess had been more or less right. That term had come up in some of the father's memories, but he hadn't explained much about them. However, Magnus could vaguely remember hearing Bale and his father mention them as well; they'd mention them and then say something about Magnus. All this time, Magnus never knew what that was about, but it was time to find out.

Time to get all the cards onto the table.

"I don't know what brought that up..." Bale was looking away, trying to act like he was bored and disinterested, but Magnus could see the tension in his friend's face, could hear it in his voice.

"Just tell me."

At that, Bale paused. Finally, the big man let out his breath in a growling rush. "You should never have spent so much time in that tavern back in Greycliff. Taught you all kinds of annoying tricks."

Magnus allowed a smile to flicker across his face for a bit, amused by Bale's reaction. "Tricks get the job done. Answer my question and don't try to act like you don't know what I'm talking about; let's just have the truth between us two."

Bale regarded Magnus for a moment but then lowered his head. "Truth is a bit much, but I'll answer what I can." He growled and turned, leading Magnus to a quiet spot away from the bustle of activity near the walls. As he walked, he began to talk over his shoulder. "I know you wonder about it sometimes, but do you know how old I am?" Bale didn't wait for a response, but just kept talking. "I won't bore you with details, but let's just say very old, okay?"

Magnus nodded to himself. "I remember you mentioning things about my grandfather, so I always figured your lifespan was a bit more than your average human..."

"It's a bit more than your average half-dragon too."

At that, Magnus paused. He could feel his eyebrows raise as Bale's words sunk in. "So you mean to say that you're old, even for your kind?"

"Yeah. Dragons have a long lifespan, but half-breeds like me don't usually get more than a century. That's about the same as a human, right?" Bale nodded to himself, answering himself. "Yeah, that sounds about right. I've passed my second century mark and I don't feel a day over thirty. Can you imagine why?"

Magnus opened his mouth to respond, but Bale plowed forward, drowning out Magnus' response. "One day, I met a wizard and we struck a deal. He bonded me to his blood using some spells that even your father had a hard time understanding. As long as he lived, I was 'preserved' as he liked to call it. In return, I killed anything that tried to kill him. It was a good deal, since the wizard had a habit of making others want to kill him." Bale chuckled to himself at that. "I swear, sometimes he even had me wanting to do it myself."

"My great-grandfather?"

"Right. Now, I'm sure you're smart enough to fill in the cracks." At that, Bale stopped and turned, regarding Magnus as he tilted his head.

Magnus swallowed and looked down, working things through in his mind. "I... It's obvious from the fact that you're still here that this pact is still in effect. You said that he bonded you to his blood?"

"Yeah, hence the name 'blood-pact'."

"Then I assume that this pact was something that was handed down to that wizard's children, my grandfather and such. Am I correct?" Bale nodded. "So I assume that means that you will continue to be preserved as long as there's someone with his blood still alive." Magnus considered this for a moment, trying to wrap his mind around such a concept. He'd never heard of any spell that could do that, but it sounded like it could be useful. "Why haven't you mentioned it before now? It hardly sounds like something that you'd keep from me."

Bale stood for a moment in silence before lowering his head again and letting out a grumbling sigh. "I told you that your great-grandfather sometimes made me want to kill him." Bale looked up and fixed Magnus in a flat stare. "You know me; if I want to kill somebody, will I kill them or won't I? If I ever wanted to kill your great-grandfather, why didn't I?"

At that, Magnus felt his mouth go dry. "The pact also compels you?"

"Not all the time, but if the guy at the other end of the pact knows how to use it, they can." At that, Bale grimaced and spat into the ground. "I hate how it feels when that part of the pact is used. It feels like someone is in my head, reaching through my neck to move my body. It feels like I'm choking, but it's all in my mind. If I had the option, I'd rather you not know about that; I'd rather you not realize that you had ways of doing that. That first wizard would use it from time to time, but luckily your grandfather and father didn't use it that often. I wasn't some leashed guard dog to them, so they treated me better and I didn't have to worry about killing them myself and breaking the pact."

Bale glanced down. "As a matter of fact, your father only compelled me once. Some elf was cutting up all the help and was trying to kill us too. I thought I could beat him, thought I could cut down this long-eared freak, but your father wasn't too sure. He reached into my mind and sent me running, you on my shoulder."

"Then he died."

X

Something was happening. Grev wasn't sure exactly who those elves were, but there was a small group of them bellowing near the gate. They seemed to be shouting orders to the soldiers- going on and on about anarchy and rebellion- but those soldiers weren't obeying those orders. These newcomers weren't soldiers, Grev could tell that much just from looking at them. They were too soft, too arrogant to be soldiers. Instead, they loudly demanded that the soldiers let their little group out the gates and seemed to be demanding that the soldiers come with them as well.

All the elves around Grev were pausing and watching these people as they shouted and waved their arms, some in amusement and others in uneasy silence. Even the lizard that had been following him all morning was distracted, eyeing the scene near the gate with a strange look on its ugly face.

All in all, it were the perfect distraction.

With a smile, Grev slipped backwards in the crowd, past the masses of distracted people until he stood next to a pile of oil casks. No one was watching him.

The perfect distraction indeed.